There is nothing more cringe worthy in Hip Hop descriptors as “conscious Hip Hop music” – but it is commonly understood what that is when people use the often maligned term. Within the genre, there are certified masters of that sound – artists who can convey messages and emotions through the somewhat narrow confines of typical Hip Hop production. The Canadian trio Tru-Paz does their part to add to that sound with their new CD, Concrete Kings¸ a sometimes decent but also uneven foray into message driven Hip Hop.
The Tru-Paz, consisting of MCs Akim and Boozy along with producer DJ/Producer Unknown, gets things off to a rocking start after a brief intro/skit with the song “Count Your Blessings”. Boozy, who also doubles as a vocalist, drives the song along with some strong and passionate singing on the hook. Akim adds his distinctive staccato flavor to the track provided by DJ Unknown – who produced each track on the disc. “Dust Yourself Off” showcases more of Boozy’s excellent harmonies and vocal talents – in fact, the singing element remain the dominant element of the song with Akim jumping in for bit in the middle. Akim’s positive lyrics, while good, don’t possess the fireworks that Boozy delivers with his performance. But, the song is pleasant and as inoffensive as possible. The same goes for the following song “Street Intuitions” – Boozy’s dancehall vocal styling works well with DJ Unknown’s keyboard and bass drum heavy track; Akim sounds more comfortable on this track than any other on the disc.
But it is this very formulaic set up of songs that make the LP drag. Boozy’s singing is almost the same on every song and there isn’t enough rhythm variation to hold interest in the well-intentioned lyrics; Akim is sometimes outclassed by the production with some quite average and understated verses. This gives the album a looming distinction of repetition even with the earnest messages throughout the songs. To be fair, however, songs like “Country Road” and the hard-hitting “War” salvage the tail end of the LP well. The Tru-Paz has set a decent foundation so far, but it would help the trio to take some more musical risks and vary the BPMs on the next release. But as it stands, Concrete Kings leaves the listener with food for thought and frequent head nods.